Do you have a vast collection of digital photos? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Is your mobile device/computer running out of space? If so, it’s time to take control and cull your digital photos like a pro!

The term “culling” in photography means to get rid of the bad images, so those remaining are the ones you want to preserve and share.

Maintaining your photo collection can be time consuming. This makes most people postpone the task (while they add to their collection by taking more photos!) But there are some things you can do to make the task quicker, enjoyable and efficient.

The biggest reason that you need to cull your photos is this: the sheer number you’ve accumulated (and continue to add to) is just not sustainable. If you aren’t a professional photographer, there’s no need to have tens of thousands of photos. Who’s going to look at them all?

Unless you have an important archive of cultural/social/historical significance, too many photos are just digital clutter. Culling you photos to a manageable number is something to work towards. Plus, future generations will thank you!

Also, the key to keeping your photo collection organized is to cull them regularly, which is what the pros do. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you review your collection and consider images to keep and which to remove:

-What is the purpose of this photo?

-Is this a high-quality image?

-Does this photo tell a story?

-Does the photo make me feel something?

-Do I care about the subject (s) in the photo?

-Is this photo redundant?

The Culling Process

There are many tools and resources available to help you cull your digital photos, as well as organizing and enhancing your photos. We’ll discuss options below.

The aim of culling your photos can vary from person to person, but there are a few commonalities. These types of images contribute to the sense of overwhelm:

  • Duplicate and redundant photos
  • Screenshots/photos from text messages/low resolution social media photos
  • Poor quality/blurry photos
  • Photos that have lost meaning (grocery lists, where you parked, etc.)

Why Culling Your Photos First Makes Sense

It’s important to cull your photos before you edit (and edit here means cropping, enhancing, fixing the exposure, adding filters, etc) to avoid being overwhelmed with choices and making mistakes. Culling unwanted photos also frees up room on your hard drive.

Here’s a scenario: let’s say you’ve returned from a family vacation with 900 photos. To sit and review all of those in one session and decide which to enhance/edit/share will take a long time, and chances are you’ll procrastinate.

Here’s the trick: cull first, then review and edit after. This avoids the rabbit hole of lingering over the best photos and getting distracted. Choose the ones to delete first. Delete those blurry, bad, redundant and screenshot photos. Don’t linger. This should be a quick and easy process.

Cull-as-You-Go

You can cull your photos whenever you have a quiet moment/downtime. If you’ve been travelling, cull later that day, after you’ve taken a series of photos. We use this practice, and it’s become second nature. If you take a few minutes to cull here and there, you avoid a backlog, which can take hours when you find the time to do it.

We also recommend reviewing your collection once a month – starting with the previous month’s photos. We do our culling the first week of the month. Be sure to pick a day and time that works for you, and that you can commit to. We’ve found it’s ideal to piggyback this new habit with an old one, such as right after paying monthly bills.

Culling Tools

Here are some of the most popular culling and editing tools for your digital photo collection:

For beginners – Adobe Bridge + Adobe Elements. These programs are a great way to organize, cull and enhance your photos and videos. They are perfect for consumers and non-pros. Bridge is free and Elements is a flat fee of $100 (no subscription needed).

More advanced – Adobe Photoshop + Adobe Lightroom. We use both programs in our professional photo organizing business and for personal projects. Photoshop is a robust tool that comes with outstanding features, such as color correction, cropping, red eye removal, and more. We use Lightroom for organizing, adding metadata, flagging favorite images and deleting the ones that don’t work. These two programs are part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, which requires a monthly subscription, and have a steeper learning curve than Bridge + Elements.

You can also use duplicate remover apps. We like and use is Photo Sweeper. Another option is an app called Photo Culling.

Both apps filter your photos and present the ones to be deleted, depending on the parameters you’ve chosen (no apps that we know of will auto-delete your photos. That’s your job!) Of course, if you practice regular culling, your collection will be much more manageable and your review session will be much quicker.

And once you have narrowed down your collection, congratulations! You are now ready to enjoy your photos without a sense of overwhelm (especially if you have a well-organized collection). As a bonus, a tidier photo collection makes it easy to create custom photo gifts such as books, slideshows, and more (perfect for the upcoming holidays!)

Hopefully, this has conveyed the benefits and importance of a regular photo culling practice. If you’d like help with how to cull your digital photos, we offer DIY coaching. If you prefer us to handle the entire process, we can do that as well. You can schedule a complimentary call to chat about your photos.